CHRO Community Conversation: Flex to the situation

HR leaders delve into practical ways to respond to the future world of work.

The world of work is facing unprecedented change. Digital transformation, remote working models, and the post-pandemic workplace are challenging HR functions – and leaders – like never before.

During the recent CHRO Community Conversation, thought leader and subject matter expert at the Academy to Innovate HR, Dr Dieter Veldsman, provided soon-to-be-released global insights into the expectations, competencies and skill requirements for the future world of work.

“There has never been a better time to be in HR and there has never been a worse time to be in HR. Expectations are changing at a rapid pace and roles are starting to shift and change. We are entering into the human experience for HR,” the 2021 CHRO of the Year said at the start of his presentation.

Dieter, who has relocated to The Netherlands, took riveted attendees back to the 1890s as he explained the evolution of HR from the industrial revolution to present-day relationships between employees and employers.

“Covid has fast-tracked the evaluation of the relationship between employer and employee.
In terms of the future of work, we are now looking at who does the work, how the work is done as well as where and when the work is done. We are seeing in some markets that the amount of vacancies outstrip the supply of talent,” he explained.

Amid a fast-changing and sometimes volatile external environment, HR as a role can anchor itself on five points:
1. Business ally: Where HR is shifting as a function that helps organisations with scenario planning.
2. Workplace advisor: Looking at process and practice design, and practice design and the flow of work.
3. Digital work architect: Helping organisations make sense of changing business models and finding the alignment between human beings and tech augmentation.
4. Wellbeing advocate: This will apply even post-pandemic, as wellbeing will be considered through the lens of holistic human beings and balancing the scales between organisations and individuals.
5. Employee experience designer: Looking to create meaningful experience while ensuring moments of value for the organisation.

Dieter then explained the new research coming out, which shows the need for HR leaders to shift from titles, descriptions and outcomes to professional personas with multidisciplinary skill sets that can be applied at a specific time, place and within a specific context.

This moves HR from a mindset of individual to leader to organisation to community to society. Within this paradigm, HR takes on various mindset personas from tech companion, service champion and advisor to solution architect, strategist, ethics custodian and humanitarian.

This set the scene for attendees to have an engaging and frank discussion on their own roles and the future of their profession.

Phindokuhle Mohlala, HR director at GB Foods, explained that her organisation was already looking into these personas. “We’ve moved beyond the concept of the new work paradigm to what Dieter described as the emerging world of work. We are now in phase two of new ways of working. At the same time we are also getting feedback on phase one as we deal with different countries and leaders whose experience of new ways of working differ.”

She added, “We should embrace that people can work wherever they are and give them the tools necessary for them to perform. Our focus should be on how people’s delivery impacts on the business rather than where they actually perform their duties.”

Assore’s executive of HR and public affairs Bongani Phakhati said, “HR personas have been around in some way, shape or form and core competencies have also been around for a while. I think the trick is getting them in balance, so we don’t have one at the expense of the other. HR has evolved from paying people as a personnel office, to business partner, to human capital.”

Sandock Austral Shipyards' head of human resources Sinqobile Khuluse, said, “The world of work is facing unprecedented change all too familiar to us at SAS as a project-based organisation of about 500 employees of which 80 percent are deskless.

“Our HR team has had to drive multiskilling, rotation and management of change across the length and breadth of the business. I strongly believe that communication and engagement are key pillars for any manufacturing operation. The ability of our employees to respond to changing landscapes is deepening. In KwaZulu-Natal, we have recently experienced the devastation of a second flood, this after riots last year and all in the middle of a pandemic. As HR we need to equip ourselves with the right skills and competencies in order to move the business forward, importantly we need to get out of survival mode quicker.”

Bongani added, “The new world of work will bring a lot of underlying things to the fore.”

Sinqobile concluded, “In my view, for a while, HR has historically felt excluded. Fast forward to 2022 and HR has both a seat and a voice at the table, although we sometimes think we are still standing outside.”